Is Sex Addiction a Thing? And while we are at it, let’s also talk about porn.

Sex Addiction Treatment/ Kelifern pomernz, Psy.D.

Is sex addiction a thing?  Nope, not according to the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V), the Journal of Positive Psychology, or AASECT.  Here is a great article that explains why porn is not the problem.  And here is another article by one of Silicon Valley's sex therapist, Marty Klein, titled "Harvey Weinstein Proves Sex Addiction Doesn't Exist."

To summarize, David Ley, author of the first article, argues sex and porn are not the problem. You are.

A few interesting facts:

  • Women have a stronger physiological response to porn than men. Therefore, one might assume that women would be more addicted to pornography than men but this is not the case.

  • As societal access to porn has increased, rates of child abuse, sex crimes, rape, and exhibitionism have decreased.

  • Only 1% of individuals report that they have had problems related to difficulty controlling their sexual behaviors (which includes viewing porn). One would think this statistic would be higher given that a large majority of adults are having sex and have easy access porn.

Porn does affect individuals but it does not completely take them over or override their core values. Those who are drawn towards unhealthy, violent, and/or illegal sexual behavior are those who already have a predisposition towards violence or nefarious acts. Additionally, those who tend to sexually act out in unhealthy ways are those with high libidos and have a tendency to get turned on quickly. Men who have difficulty controlling their sexual urges/desires may have less self-awareness, are more likely to have grown up with sex-shaming messages, have a difficult time honestly speaking to their partners about their concerns, and do not have adequate tools to prevent acting out. Many of the men that I have worked with also struggle with trauma histories, feel undesired, and experience a deep and profound sense of shame.

Many believe that calling sex an addiction is overly pathologizing. Others believe that blaming your problems on sex and/or porn is an “easy out.”  In my own practice I prefer to utilize the terminology "out of control sexual behavior" as a way to describe an individual's consensual sexual thoughts, urges, and behaviors that feel out of control to them.  Some may argue that this is all just semantics but language is powerful, particularly when it comes to framing psychological difficulties and for the purposes of recovery.

If a client absolutely insists that they are a sex or porn addict, I will honor the language that they find most useful in describing their struggle.  But I have found that with time spent in therapy there is a tendency to drop this label in favor of terms that feel more empowering.

To learn more about participating in sex therapy in Silicon Valley, visit my website: